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Using mural art to promote a migrant helpline in Libya

How an unexpected twist resulted in an inclusive, participatory mural

The context

Migrant communities in Libya are very diverse, as they represent more than 40 different nationalities, with various cultures and languages and different age groups. There is a constant need to design a variety of visibility and monitoring tools and activities to ensure that the awareness raising information is clear and accessible.

Since migrants have limited access to smart phones and Internet, IOM implements a wide variety of offline activities, such as direct awareness sessions, art and cultural activities, photography workshops and exhibitions, billboards, and murals. 

Under the COMPASS project, the community engagement team wanted to identify migrants gathering points to implement awareness raising activities in Tripoli.

The first idea: Billboards in areas where migrants often gather

Migrants often gather under huge commercial billboards in the streets seeking the shade, so the team decided to install awareness raising billboards in these locations. They conducted community consultations to finalize the messages and designs but soon after the installation of the billboards, they had to be removed unexpectedly.

The pivot: A mural in the collective housing area

The team went back to the initial step of searching for gathering spots, and thought of the migrants’ collective housing. IOM staff pitched the idea to the landlord and migrant focal points who were living there, and everyone welcomed the idea. The team contacted two talented local women artists who were able to interpret the awareness message about safe migration through a colourful, positive painting. The sketch was shared with the landlord and the migrant focal points for approval before painting began.

Let’s paint!

On the day the mural was created the IOM Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM) team distributed core relief items, including non-food items and hygiene kits and ran an awareness raising session that addressed the dangers of irregular migration. They also shared information on the IOM services available for migrants in Libya, while promoting the IOM helpline number. After that, the migrants were invited to join the artists in painting the mural that also featured the IOM helpline number on the wall.  

Lessons learned

  • The creation of the mural was a participatory process and this was key: the migrants were consulted about having a mural in their living space. They approved the sketch prior to implementation, and participated in the actual painting.
  • It was also an opportunity to collaborate with local artists who created a bright, positive image.
  • It was an eco-friendly activity that helped reduce the amount of printed helpline cards that used to be distributed to migrants during awareness raising sessions.
  • In a focus group discussion six months later with 27 migrants living in the area around the mural, all recommended that IOM continue the mural painting activities to help promote awareness about the IOM helpline, and they suggested that more illustrations be created depicting the types of services that IOM offers to migrants.

Interested in running your own participatory painting activity? Check out the Street Art Together toolkit.

Written by Salwa Abdel Wahed, Community Engagement Officer, IOM Libya

Photos by Rawand Al Hares, Community Engagement & Communication Assistant, IOM Libya


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